Last Friday, March 29, representatives from Shir Tikvah Congregation, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), Jewish Community Action (JCA), the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Temple of Aaron, and Plymouth Congregational Church, among others, hosted a press conference to condemn the use of Nazi references in Minnesota for Marriage’s efforts to oppose same-sex marriage.
“It’s shocking and appalling and deeply un-Minnesotan,” said Shir Tikvah’s Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, according to the Star Tribune, accusing the group of using the Bible, Torah and other religious texts to espouse their views against homosexuality. “When did you decide to use a sacred text as a weapon of mass destruction?”
The intent of the press conference was to ask Minnesota for Marriage to apologize and withdraw material that accused same-sex marriage advocates of using the propaganda techniques similar to Nazis during the Holocaust.
A spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, Autumn Leva, told the Star Tribune that the statements in question came from Minnesota Pastors for Marriage, a separate affiliate group.
“Minnesota for Marriage regrets that statements considered by many to be offensive appeared on the Web site of a separate organization, Minnesota Pastors for Marriage,” according to a statement from Minnesota for Marriage. “The aim of Minnesota for Marriage has always been to promote a civil and respectful debate about the nature of marriage.”
But the day before, March 28, Leva told the Star Tribune that the issue was a “smoke screen” and a “desperate attempt to distract Minnesotans in order to convince them that children don’t really need a mother and a father.”
Last weekend, Minnesota for Marriage urged pastors to preach against same-sex marriage and offered a “sermon starter” to help religious leaders touch on key arguments.
The material read: “They essentially practice Joseph Goebbels’ Nazi philosophy of propaganda, which is basically this: Tell a lie long enough and loud enough and eventually most mindless Americans will believe it. Hear this: God did not make anyone homosexual.”
Last Friday night, the Minnesota Family Council issued a statement taking blame from the sermons that started the controversy.
But this is not the first time the group has used Nazi references. In October 2012, Rev. Brad Brandon, a religious outreach staffer for Minnesota for Marriage, compared the efforts of those opposed to the same-sex marriage amendment (those in favor of same-sex marriage) to the Nazi regime.
Minnesota for Marriage quickly apologized and said Brandon’s comments did not reflect the group’s beliefs.
“We are troubled by the fact that this is the second time in less than six months that Minnesota for Marriage has made reckless and historically inaccurate comparisons between Nazi Germany, and the tactics which it employed, and the proponents of marriage equality,” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the JCRC, said in a statement. “As we have in the past, the JCRC strongly urges advocates on all sides of deeply controversial issues to refrain from making Nazi comparisons. Such analogies are almost always inappropriate and are offensive to not only the Jewish community, but also the many gay people who were targeted and murdered by the Nazi regime.”
Hunegs added, “While the JCRC appreciates that people of all faiths are on both sides of this contentious issue and that not all opponents of marriage equality agree with these sample sermons, it is dismaying that Minnesota for Marriage, which has previously made similar Nazi comparisons in the past, would continue to use such rhetoric.”
Last Thursday, the day before the press conference at Shir Tikvah, JCA also released a statement condemning the sermon material.
“Jewish Community Action believes that to continually make analogous the tactics used to spread a message of hate and drive the near destruction of a people to a campaign which at its core is about love, commitment, and family, is ridiculous,” the statement read. “To do it during Passover, a holiday that commemorates freedom from oppression, is shameful.”